Tips for Writing a Disaster Plan

Writing a disaster plan for your institution can seem like an onerous task, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are a few tips to help write a disaster plan.

1. Don’t do it alone

Choose a variety of people within your organization to be a part of the writing process. Include individuals from different departments, with different backgrounds and different levels of experience. Meet regularly to create the best plan possible. Share drafts with staff members to see if there is anything you have missed and work through mock-disaster scenarios to see if the plan you create works in practice. Also, think about who will review and update the plan in the future and who will approve these changes. Your staff will feel more connected with and responsible for the disaster plan if they are involved in the writing and testing process.

2. Who are you going to call?

Create a list of staff to call during a disaster. Include alternate phone numbers to reach people. Every staff member should have a role assigned in the disaster plan, such as Response Lead and Collections Lead, and clearly identified responsibilities and tasks for each role. Include alternate staff for each position in case staff members are not available to assist.

3. Map it!

Include a floor plan within your disaster plan. Identify the location of your vital records, exits, water shut offs, breaker boxes, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, first aid kits, shelving units, disaster recovery supplies and any other supplies or pieces of equipment you think would be helpful. A map may help you evacuate records or assist first responders unfamiliar with your institution.


Photo credit: Mike Carney

4. Practice makes perfect

Include a section describing how you will train staff on using your disaster plan. How will you ensure that all staff have read the plan (consider having a sheet that all staff sign when they have read the plan)? What type of training will you offer? How often will this training occur? ASA recommends that all staff read through the plan at least once a year and to annually exercise a mock-disaster scenario to practice the plan.

5. Supplies

Create a list of all supplies you have onsite that can be helpful during and recovering from a disaster. This may include archival supplies, rehousing supplies and cleaning supplies, among others. Identify the location of all of the supplies in your plan so staff can find them quickly. Include the contact information for companies that offer equipment and supplies that you need but do not have onsite, such as freezer trucks, wet-dry vacuums and blotting paper. It is important to organize your supplies and contacts before a disaster for ease of access and use.

We hope that these tips help you write your institution’s disaster plan!

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One thought on “Tips for Writing a Disaster Plan

  1. […] Lead Team for the Alberta Flood Advisory Programme offer some helpful hints on their blog. They advise that preparing a disaster plan should be a collaborative effort with staff members […]

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